Disgraced Rep. George Santos allegedly conned a disabled, homeless veteran out of thousands of dollars donated to save the man’s dying service dog, according to a stomach-turning report.
The alleged account adds to Santos’ growing list of shady behavior — from a largely forged resume to fabricated Jewish heritage — which has entangled the freshman congressman since he was elected to represent parts of Long Island and Queens.
The veteran, Richard Osthoff, told the local news site Patch that he met Santos, who introduced himself as Anthony Devolder, during a tough time in his life in May 2016.
Osthoff, who was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2002, was living in a tent on the side of Route 9 in Howell, New Jersey with his beloved service dog Sapphire at the time, Patch reported.
Sapphire was suffering from a life-threatening stomach tumor that was growing by the day and surgery to remove the tumor would cost $3,000, according to the vet’s estimate, Osthoff said.
The veteran, who couldn’t afford the surgery, said a veterinary technician took him aside and offered assistance via a pet charity called Friends of Pets United run by Anthony Devolder, an alias used by Santos in the past.
Devolder set up a GoFundMe to raise funds for Sapphire and once it hit its goal of $3,000, he closed and deleted the fundraising page and became hard to reach before he disappeared altogether, Osthoff told Patch.
The Navy vet, now 47, never saw a penny of the donations and his beloved service dog died on Jan. 15, 2017, according to the outlet.
“Little girl never left my side in 10 years,” Osthoff told Patch. “I went through two bouts of seriously considering suicide, but thinking about leaving her without me saved my life. I loved that dog so much, I inhaled her last breaths when I had her euthanized.”
His account was corroborated by fellow veteran and retired New Jersey police Sgt. Michael Boll, who told Patch when he heard what happened, he tried to help Osthoff by reaching out to Santos.
“I contacted [Santos] and told him ‘You’re messing with a veteran,’ and that he needed to give back the money or use it to get Osthoff another dog,” Boll said. “He was totally uncooperative on the phone.”
Osthoff said Santos requested he take Sapphire to a Queens veterinarian instead of the New Jersey practice because he had “credit” with the practice in the Big Apple.
The vet tech who told Osthoff about Santos’ charity drove the pair to the Queens practice, where a vet said Sapphire’s tumor was inoperable.
Santos claimed that he instead donated the $3,000 to other dogs in need because Sapphire wasn’t a candidate for surgery and Osthoff didn’t do things his way, according to a text exchange viewed by Patch.
After that, Osthoff was never able to reach Santos again.
There are no official records of Santos’ animal charity “Friends of Pets United” being registered as a tax-exempt organization or charity, according to the New York Times.
Another woman told the paper that she was scammed by the animal rescue group as well.
She was supposed to be the beneficiary of a 2017 fundraising event in which Santos charged $50 per person, but never received any of the funds. She told the Times that Santos offered excuse after excuse when asked about the funding.
Santos and his attorney did not reply to requests for comment from Patch.